Sustainable Procurement Tools

Overview – Description and Scope

This guidance is concerned with the procurement of supplies and services that may be vulnerable to the effects of known and anticipated climate change, the pace of which is accelerating, and for which climate resilience is important e.g. construction projects, supplies sourced from areas known to be vulnerable to climate change impacts in the lifetime of the contract.

This guidance may be considered, where relevant, alongside other Climate Change guides, which focus on mitigation measures – Carbon and Energy - Vehicle emissionsCarbon in production. Opportunities for jobs and skills to support climate change mitigation and adaptation may also be relevant so you may also consider the Employment, Skills and Training guide.

This guidance may be considered, where relevant, alongside Construction Policy Note (CPN) 1/2023 which draws attention to the publication of a new chapter (chapter 18) within the Client Guide to Construction Projects.  The guidance provides an overview of the client’s role in planning for sustainability in construction projects, particularly during the project initiation phase.

The guidance reinforces the criticality of pre-procurement consideration of intended outcomes and optimum methods of delivery of these, involving mature dialogue internally and with the market. It also provides relevant procurement guidance, aligned with the Procurement Journey, with example clauses within the Annex.  

Users of this guidance should have completed the Climate Literacy e-learning module, available from the Sustainable Procurement Tools portal.

Supporting the Sustainable Procurement Tools

The guidance is part of a series of guides which support the sustainable procurement duty tools to help public sector organisations embed sustainability into their procurement processes.

For example, the Sustainability Test includes the following question:

Is the supply of this product or delivery of relevant service potentially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change?

Is there an opportunity to minimise the effects on supply or service delivery, as a result of anticipated climate change?

Examples include:

  • Risks to infrastructure and buildings/ facilities;
  • Risks to local supply and service continuity;
  • Risks to supply continuity from other areas vulnerable to climate change;
  • Risks to users of services.

as a result of known or anticipated climate change, such as anticipated higher temperatures, flooding, and other extreme climatic events and how relevant procurements should adapt to minimise relevant risks (this may include managing risks relating to supply from parts of the world most vulnerable to climate change).

About Adaptation

‘Adaptation’ is the ‘adjustment in economic, social or natural systems in response to actual or expected climatic change, to limit harmful consequences and exploit beneficial opportunities’ (Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme).

Known or anticipated climate change impacts can potentially affect supply chains in parts of the world known to be vulnerable to the impacts. This may be due to the effects of rising sea level impacting on the availability of land for crops or commercial/manufacturing operations, the effects of an increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as storms and wildfires, or more local impacts on construction projects or infrastructure and health. Adaptation therefore involves actions taken to manage the unavoidable impacts of climate change, including those on population health, goods and services and infrastructure. The consequences of doing nothing can be catastrophic, impacting greatest on the most vulnerable, so action should be fair and equitable.

Benefits From Adaptation

As Adaptation Scotland states:

'Effective long-term planning contributes to sustainable development by safeguarding people and places; by protecting and enhancing the natural environment, and by contributing to a resilient economy that can cope with volatile resource prices and supply chains. It allows you to add value to the services you deliver. Climate resilience can support your organisation’s carbon management efforts, which is important as climate-related impacts can jeopardise mitigation and its financial benefits.'

Benefits from Adaptation measures therefore include:

  • Enhanced resilience of supply of products and materials and certainty in service provision;
  • Reduced impacts on infrastructure and healthcare provision;
  • Reduced negative health impacts;
  • Reduced losses due to flooding.

The Role of Procurement

  • It may only be appropriate to consider climate change adaptation in certain contracts, but it can be a potentially significant issue. Some examples of adaptation measures include: reducing risks that may arise from extreme weather on travel and transport, such as through provision of services remotely, adapting building codes to future climate conditions and extreme weather events, building flood defences.
  • Consideration of the role that procurement has in addressing the above requires consideration of the risks that required supplies and services may be vulnerable to climate change.
  • For example, are supplies sourced from areas known to be vulnerable to climate change, and is there an opportunity to address this now? (some of the climate change effects are happening now but others will take time to manifest themselves - ensure that risks are considered during the lifetime of the contract in question so that it is core to the subject matter of the contract).
  • The intended outcome may for example include buildings/major refurbishments/infrastructure that are more climate change resilient, facilities management contracts better consider the whole life costs of operation and maintenance; physical risks may also be reduced.
  • With the exception of climate change considerations such as flood resilience, adaptation measures that depend on behaviour and operational criteria are far more difficult to define and quantify, than those relating to mitigation.
  • Consequently, contracting authorities must consider carefully: the procurement stages at which adaptation is considered; the extent to which the contracting authority can prescribe adaptation measures; the extent to which the contracting authority can evaluate potentially diverse and even conflicting submissions from bidders.

Life Cycle Impact Mapping (LCIM), which may be used to identify and assess the social and environmental impacts within the life cycle of a product or service, can be an easy way into the Sustainability Test for internal customers to understand relevant risks and opportunities, such as climate change adaptation – for example, what and where in the life cycle are the key adaptation risks relating to the planned procurement?

The following provides some risks that may be relevant for procurements, according to the scope of the requirement (other environmental and socio-economic risks may apply), and which may need to be managed through adaptation measures, including the design of buildings, infrastructure, services:

Impacts of obtaining raw materials/ resources needed for relevant service Impacts of manufacturing and logistics/ set up of service

Impacts on sourcing of materials due to climate change.

Impacts on availability of required minerals from climate change and resultant risks to material security.

Impacts on manufacturing in locations vulnerable to climate change - risks to resilience of supply from known or anticipated changes in climate e.g. impacts on availability of materials and components.

Impacts to public health, transport, delivery of social care services and others as a result of risks to infrastructure, communities and services from climate change.

Impacts during use of product/ service delivery Impacts at end of life/disposal/ end of service

Impacts on ability to provide services and consequent risks to public health/ essential services or others (according to scope of the contract).

Impacts on pollution of water and land from extreme weather events.

Impacts on users of buildings, infrastructure and services from climate change including higher temperature, flooding (including physical and mental health and wellbeing).

Impacts on management of waste arising from contracts due to climate change – risks to waste infrastructure and pollution.  

It is also of course important to focus on those risks that you have influence over, which you would consider when completing the Sustainability Test.

Disclaimer - This guidance is provided to support the embedding of relevant and proportionate contract/framework requirements and the information and examples are provided in good faith. To the extent that this guidance contains any information concerning procurement law such information does not constitute advice to you. The content of this guidance is not to be construed as legal advice or a substitute for such advice, which you should obtain from your own legal advisers if required. Scottish Government is not and shall not be held responsible for anything done or not done by you as a result of this guidance.

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